Two similar games (for the most part), two wins for the good guys.
A few comments after watching parts of both:
Orioles-Tigers (Orioles up 1-0)
1. Nelson Cruz may have been toxic last offseason, but he is a critical reason why the Orioles ran away with the AL East and his home run in the first inning was an enormous tone-setter for the contest. Happening just after Adam Jones’ double play seemingly took all the steam out of the first inning, the homer fired up the dugout, fizzed up the crowd and — more importantly — gave what turned out to be a shaky Chris Tillman an early lead.
2. Max Scherzer shook off his first-inning woes and pitched extremely well. Tillman, however, was wobbly pretty much throughout his five innings of work. The O’s bullpen held things together until…
3. Detroit’s defense and bullpen struck. The Tigers aren’t anywhere close to the best defensive team, and they couldn’t stop the bleeding after an error in the eighth. The error is one thing, but failure to stem the tide falls on the relievers. Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus really needs complete games every time out from his starters and he just won’t get that. It won’t matter what the score is — as soon as a Detroit reliever enters the game, the Baltimore chance of winning increases exponentially.
Angels-Royals (Royals up 1-0)
1. I’m kicking myself for not setting aside enough time to write about the Royals being built to go deep into the playoffs…if Manager Ned Yost didn’t blow up those chances in the regular season or torpedo them once they secured a playoff berth. Anyways, you saw again the flaws and the strengths of this team in Game 1. The offense simply looks overmatched at times (most of Thursday night), but pitching and defense keeps this team in enough games to give it a chance in the late innings. And when the Angels kept wasting opportunity after late opportunity, you had a sense the game would turn on one swing. Not sure anybody felt it would come from Mike Moustakas, but wasn’t that fitting, though? That’s how it turned out and the Royals got the jump they needed.
2. Mike Scioscia #yosted his club’s chances to win, while #theoriginalyosted’s Game 1 choices actually made sense. Erick Aybar won’t be asked to bunt a lot more (I don’t think). Meanwhile, the forearm tightness Kelvin Herrera experienced had a lot of us feeling tight in other places…notably the chest. And the Game 2 choice of Yordano Ventura as your starter just scares me after his Sunday and Tuesday outings.
3. The TBS crew calling the Royals-Angels series did not do its homework heading into either this series or the wild card against Oakland. The talk about Cal Ripken snoozing in the late innings aside, all you need is one example of what I’m talking about:
Nori Aoki is at best the Royals’ fourth best outfielder defensively. He’s taken worse routes to balls before (just this season, mind you) and, well, failed miserably. There is also this classic:
And yet, when Aoki was pulled for Jarrod Dyson late, color commentator Ron Darling said: “I can’t believe they are taking Aoki out for a defensive replacement.”
I kid you not.
On a separate note: happy birthday, Nash Holland. Daddy nailed down Game 1 without any issues.
On to Game 2.